Origin of Mary's Kiss
Known in her time as the Witch of Youghal, Florence Newton was the central player of what would become known as one of Ireland’s most important witch trials.
The accusations leveled at her were many and varied: during Christmas of 1660, she was heard to mumble curses beneath her breath about being passed over by a plate of beef at a party thrown by a man named John Pyne.
Shortly after this, she met with a servant of Pyne’s named Mary Longdon on the street, and “violently kissed her.” It wasn’t long after this incident that Mary began to take ill, suffering fits, cramps, and unnatural visions. Around this time, whisperings had already begun that a coven of witches had made their home in Youghal; the proof, locals claimed, was in the “needles, pins, horsenails, wool, and straw” that Mary began to throw up. Mary claimed that the mastermind behind her ailment was Florence,and so she was arrested and imprisoned on March 24, 1661.
Florence Newton was also blamed for the death of a local man named David Jones during her trial: later, his widow claimed that she had seen Florence kiss her late husband’s hand through the bars of her confinement. Later, he became aggressively ill, and on his deathbed could muster the energy only to cry out a name: “Newton!”
On September 11, 1661, Florence Newton was tried at Assizes, Co. Cork, for the “enchantment” of Mary Longdon and for employing sorcery to bring about the death of David Jones. The verdict? Unconfirmed. Essential court documents have been missing since well before historians ever began looking into the case. If Florence was found guilty, she would have been put to death, as all ascertained witches were at the time. And if she was innocent? We may never know.